Normally I either rant about something from my personal life here, or I do some write up on a single issue that's bothering me. Rather than focus on only one thing this time though, I'm going to talk about several issues. Two are updates on things I've already posted about about, and the third is a new thing that I've ranted about in person - but not in this space. So, lets kick things off, shall we?
So, we all know about the stupid lawsuit - I've ranted on it at length. Lance Steiger, a Resident Assistant in Governors Hall, is suing the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire over a policy which banned RAs from running religious study groups (including Bible studies) in their State provided rooms. I've already weighed in on this issue, but I think I best expressed my position in the final comment I made in the discussion for that post. What drives me nuts the most about the lawsuit though is the timing. The University office of Housing and Residence Life had already suspended the policy in lue of pending review from the University System's desire to create a UW-wide policy for all campuses. So, rather than let everyone settle out what's going on first, Steiger's lawsuit could create a dangerous precident in either direction.
Yeah, that's just brilliant Lance.
As I spoke about in my previous post, Marquette University has suspended Dental student Theodore Schrubbe for comments made in his personal blog which were derogatory towards professors - but never actually named them. Schrubbe is appealing this decision, of course - and will continue to attend classes at least until his appeal hearing. The hearing was originally scheduled for this past Friday, but has been rescheduled for Wednesday.
What amazes me is two things: One, the Marquette Student Government response has been effectively toothless, and in support of the administration's decision. Two, that both the Democrats and Republicans have lined up in support of Schrubbe. You know you have to be severely wronged to get both sides of the aisle behind you in divisive times such as this.
So, this year the Christian Right has launched a ridiculous campaign against the phrase "Happy Holidays." This has to be the dumbest thing I've ever heard - and I'm not the only one who thinks that. The phrase Happy Holidays was created so you could send out one greeting card to a bunch of people without worrying about what religion they were. It's not about belittling Christmas - and by saying it or writing it someone doesn't say there is something wrong with writing "Merry Christmas" either. It's a personal choice, and no big deal should be made of it. Heck, Happy Holidays is not even a new thing. It's been used for quite some time - which leads me to ask "Why Now?"
I'll tell you why now. It's now because there's a war in Iraq, a indictments going on in high levels of the government, and scandal abounds in the Right Wing sections of the Republican party. And who is the party of the Christian right? Hmmm, let me think. This Happy Holidays malarky is less about Jesus Christ and more about Lewis "Scooter" Libby and Randy "Duke" Cunningham.
I'm glad to see other students taking their freedom of speech rights seriously. We've been having problems over here at Penn and I've found that the only way to fight back is to make the proceeding as public as possible. Please, please let me know of any updates you have and please send any electronic information for futher publication! www.libertarianconservative.com
I was wondering about some of the details about this lawsuit, was the RA having a churchy church session in his dorm room or in a dorm ballroom? And also is his room provided free or is he paying for it?
An RA's Housing and Meals are provided by the University. I don't know if Lance was holding it in his room or just in the hall off the top of my head, but the policy applies to both.
As for the "holding it in the hall" I just don't see why another member of the group couldn't run it (the RA is allowed to attend, just not run a bible study in the hall), as it requires more than one person to constitute a Bible study. :-p
This topic came up at the tables, and of course the theory that since they eat, sleep, and have sex in their dorm they shouldn't really be considered on the clock all the time. What I wonder is, could an RA legally hold an orgy in their room?
Here's an interesting fact that no one on this site understands. If you would read that articles from the press and press releases from the Alliance Defense Fund you would know that the lawsuit was filed BEFORE the ban was SUSPENDED, not removed. He is only asking for nominal damages of $1. Get your facts straight before you start harassing people online...even though it is your constitutional right to do so.
Actually, it was floating around housing that the policy was going to be suspended previous to the filing. Lance is an RA, he could have found out quite easily. Hell, I knew, and I'm so out of the loop it hurts.
Of course, I just love this quote:
"Essentially, the university is saying that, if you're a student dorm leader and you're not being disruptive, you can hold a 'kegger,' but you can't hold a Bible study," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Kevin Theriot.
Yeah, that so true, except, wait, NO IT ISN'T. If Mr. Theriot knew a damned thing about the case he was prosecuting, he'd know a keg violates the container rule at UWEC housing, and if an RA had that in their room they'd be documented for violating policy code 34. If people were under 21 in the room, they'd also be written up for violating policy number 32 and possibly 33. Likely policy 20 (Quiet Hours) would be violated as well (when is the last time you went to a quiet kegger?) - and if by 'Student Dorm Leader' someone meant the Hall Council President, then fine - have a study, but State Employee in their State provided Office is a bit different.
I don't know which I'm more angry at, the flippant disregard for the establishment clause, or his stereotypical depiction of college students as dumb drunks.
Yeah, the university's flipant disregard for the 2nd part of the Establishment Clause (you know, the "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" part) is pretty appalling.
Regardless, Housing's argument isn't and has never been based on the Establishment Clause. You're using it as a straw man. Housing's argument is that it makes RA's less accessible to students. And you're seriously arguing that an RA having an orgy in their room is going to be less offensive and less distancing to most students then an RA practicing their religion? I strongly question that.
The other thing I don't get is the argument that the RA can just go next door and participate in one. The students are still going to know, so they might still feel uncomfortable, right? Oh, well, maybe RAs shouldn't be able to participate in religious activities in the dorms. OH, but this RA has written on her posted schedule that she goes to a religious group of some sort on a certain night of the week. What if that makes them uncomfortable? Should they not be allowed to participate in religious activities at all? It leads to an obvious slippery slope, and I wouldn't be surprised if it started were the policy reinstituted.
Bottom line: RAs are people, not the constant voice of housing. People get to practice their religion. This is guaranteed, ironically, by the Establishment Clause you've brought up before. Housing, a government organization, is prohibiting students from practicing their religion. A clear violation of the Establishment Clause is at hand, but it's not the one you're thinking of.
Wow, you know a lot about rules at your school...good for you. As far as I know, RA's can get drunk in their room as long as they are 21. I'm guessing that's the point the laywer is making. Is a drunk RA approachable and a good example to residents? Hmmm... And all this talk about a state provided room...aren't RA's compensated for their work? They earn a room for the work they do and that is also where they live. To say that the school own's them in their place of residence is absolutely ridiculous...ridiculous. There are no other part-time jobs in the country where this is true. When they aren't on duty, RA's are in their home. Please get some sense and realize that the establishment clause protects this speech, it doesn't prohibit it. Anyone who says otherwise clearly has some hidden agenda or prejudice.
I'm the judicial board chair. It's my job to know the rules. But honestly, that's first week shit.
It is a state provided office. Explain to me how that is so complicated for some people to understand? And guess what, yes - and RA is always on duty when they are in their hall. RAs KNOW this when they sign up for the job. Complaining about that is like complainging that guy at McDonalds might be forced to be around Hamburgers. It's the sort of thing you should think about before taking the job. RAs are people true, but they are always the voice of housing when they are in the dorms. That is the whole point of the job, and if they don't want that, they don't have to apply.
This isn't about freedom of speech. This is about the esablishment clause. It must be kept in balance with the free exercise clause, and this is the best way to do it. And by bringing in the ADF, Steiger lost any chance of my ever considering supporting him. They're part of a lensed movement that can't undestand the whole of the first amendment, and only care about it's pieces.